In the previous post, we elucidated that what we mean by “Good” is that which brings me closer to the Infinite, and what we mean by “Evil” is that which pulls me away from the Infinite.
Now that we have Good and Evil lucidly defined, let us be clear that in Judaism, when we talk about Free Will, it is to these decisions between Good and Evil that we are referring. That is, when we speak of Free Will, we are not referring to questions such as vanilla versus chocolate. Whether or not that is a real choice or conditioning is simply not our issue. Rather, our concern is one’s decision that will result in either his building his relationship with the Infinite or his destroying his relationship with the Infinite. (One’s personal tastes are actually rooted in his soul, according to Kabbalah. For more on this topic, see the section “Blessings on Fruit” in my book The Trees in the Forest: Jewish Living in the Context of Kabbalah.)
Another area in which Free Will does not apply is when it comes to determining realities. The fact that a person has Free Will does not mean that he has the ability to determine what is real and what is not. Rather, Free Will means that one has the ability to choose what he does or does not do within the given reality.
For example, imagine you and your friend are on the roof of a building, and your friend pops a pill and now believes he can fly home. You try to stop him and inform him that he is mistaken and that he is, in fact, incapable of flying. But, he responds by letting you know that while gravity may exist in “your reality,” it does not exist in “his reality.” At this point, supposing you’re a liberal-minded individual and you believe that you’ve got to let people make their own choices in life, you let him jump off the building. Does he fly or does he fall? Of course he falls, despite the fact that in “his reality” he can fly.
What you think about reality has nothing to do with what is reality. Thus Free Will does not mean one has the choice to determine realities; rather, it means that one has the ability to choose what he does within the given reality. And just as the physical reality exists independent of what we think about it, so too the spiritual reality exists independent of what we think about it.
Therefore, if, as we’ve explained, everyone wants to get the most pleasure, joy, and happiness out of life, our Free Will decisions ought to be predicated and based in reality. After all, to the extent one’s decisions are based in reality, he is likely to move in the direction of pleasure, joy, and happiness. To the extent one’s decisions are not based in reality, and he ignores the reality in exchange for his “reality,” he is likely to miss out on pleasure, joy, and happiness.
Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a sought after cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life. His recently released #1 Amazon’s Best Seller, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism, has won wide acclaim as one of the clearest, most comprehensive, easily accessible, and practical depictions of Kabbalah and the “whys” of Judaism.